Today, Senator Herb Kohl signed on as a cosponsor of S.1392, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011. This bipartisan bill would halt four rules related to industrial boilers and incinerators first proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June 2010. The bill would give EPA time to re-propose these rules -- ensuring that they are achievable -- and give the affected users sufficient time to comply. These proposal rules, if implemented, could impose huge costs to many industries in Wisconsin, especially the pulp and paper industry. Wisconsin is home to more than 200 pulp and paper facilities and the industry employs more than 35,000 people.
"No one doubts that we need regulations to keep our air and water clean," said Kohl. "But we should make sure that federal regulations are balanced, achievable and cost-effective. This bill is the best way to give EPA the time they need to produce better rules that will reduce air pollution without putting thousands of jobs at risk."
In September 2010, Senator Kohl joined a bipartisan group of 41 Senators on a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson expressing concern about the proposed rules. At that time, a study estimating the compliance costs of the proposed rules was conducted, showing that Wisconsin pulp and paper companies would need to spend more than $470 million to comply, resulting in the loss of 7,500 jobs and the closure of 11 paper mills.
In December 2010, in advance of a court-imposed January 16 deadline to finish the rules, the EPA requested a 15-month extension to finish the rules -- a move that Senator Kohl applauded. However, the court rejected that request and the EPA finalized the rules in February. Shortly after, Senator Kohl expressed his continued concerns about the impacts of these rules in a letter to Administrator Jackson.
Even with the changes made in the final rules, a recent study by the American Forest & Paper Association estimated that the final rule would cost the Wisconsin forest products industry more than $400 million in compliance costs, still putting thousands of jobs at risk.
The EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 was introduced last week by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Mark Pryor (D-AR).